LIVE: Morel's second homer puts Sox ahead

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LIVE: Morel's second homer puts Sox ahead

Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011
Posted: 8:55 a.m.
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(AP) -- When Chicago and Cleveland last met three weeks ago, the teams were battling for second place and just back of AL Central-leading Detroit.

The White Sox have since overtaken the Indians for second, but that doesn't seem to matter much now.

Having fallen significantly off the pace in the division, Chicago and Cleveland open a four-game series Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field looking like they'll simply be playing for pride down the stretch.

The White Sox (71-70) were 3 12 games back of the Tigers, while the Indians were two games out when they opened a three-game series in Chicago on Aug. 16. Cleveland (70-70) took two of three in that series between teams with legitimate playoff hopes.

That isn't the case anymore, however.

The White Sox have dropped five of eight to fall nine games back of Detroit, while the Indians have lost five of seven and are 9 12 back.

Cleveland's playoff aspirations effectively came to an end when it was swept in a three-game home series by the Tigers, capped with an 8-6 loss Wednesday.

"We just got swept," said first baseman Shelley Duncan, who hit a pair of two-run homers off Justin Verlander. "We're a little down right now."

Although his club's postseason chances are dim, manager Manny Acta is trying to stay positive.

"If we don't win (Thursday), it's not because this series is lingering," he said. "They've gone through worse and they have bounced back."

The White Sox, who lost to Minnesota 5-4 on Wednesday, experienced their own sweep to the Tigers over the weekend. Possibly the biggest blow to Chicago's playoff hopes came in scheduled starter Gavin Floyd's last outing.

In Detroit on Saturday, Floyd (12-10, 4.45 ERA) gave up four runs and eight hits and departed after five innings with the White Sox leading 8-4. But closer Sergio Santos gave up two homers in the ninth and the Tigers won 9-8 to drop Chicago 7 12 games off the pace.

Floyd has been hit-or-miss against the Indians lately. Since 2009, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA in five starts in the series, but 0-2 with a 15.43 ERA in the other three.

It has been a similar story since the All-Star break for Floyd, who has posted a 1.45 ERA in winning six of his starts as opposed to 0-1 with a 13.15 ERA in the other three. He has made two starts against the Indians in this stretch with two differing results.

In Cleveland on July 22, Floyd allowed four hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 3-0 win, but at U.S. Cellular on Aug. 16, he gave up five runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-7, 14-inning win.

The Indians counter with David Huff (2-3, 2.81), who gave up five runs and six hits in six innings of Saturday's 5-1 loss to Kansas City. It was the second time in three starts the left-hander permitted five runs after posting a 0.51 ERA in his first three starts.

Huff made a relief appearance against Chicago on Aug. 16, entering in the 14th inning to face Juan Pierre, who singled home the winning run.

He made all of his three career starts against the White Sox in 2009, going 2-0 despite an 8.04 ERA.

Chicago's Alexei Ramirez, batting .333 with six doubles in his last 11 games, is 5 for 9 with two homers lifetime against Huff.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

The Crosstown Classic continues on Wednesday at Wrigley Field as the White Sox square off against the Cubs on CSN Chicago. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (1-0, 17.18) vs. Jason Hammel (9-5, 3.35)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields offered a taxed bullpen a significant boost on Tuesday night.

It was the sort of performance that earned him the nickname “Big Game” earlier in his career.

The right-hander pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox offense did enough for a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,553 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields lowered his earned-run average over his last seven starts to 2.11 as he worked around four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. The White Sox won their fourth in a row, including their second straight over the Cubs, and in doing so retained the Crosstown Cup. David Robertson recorded his 24th save in 28 tries with a perfect ninth.

“This is the guy we were thinking of when we got him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He came up big tonight, especially the way the bullpen is. I know he takes a lot of pride in that, he really does, of going out there and going deep into games. This is another one that we needed and he came through for us.”

An individual turnaround that began June 23rd in Boston reached its apex on Tuesday.

Since an atrocious three-start introduction to the White Sox, Shields has rediscovered some of the form that made him one of the top starters in the American League for the better part of a decade.

With the bullpen in need of a huge lift after throwing 19 1/3 innings in the previous four games, Shields delivered. White Sox relievers recorded only four outs and threw 19 pitches at time they needed it most. A number of close games and Chris Sale’s skipped start Saturday have White Sox relievers working in shifts to rest.

Shields provided that breather.

“He was a bulldog today, man,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He came out there and did what he had to do, saved the bullpen a little bit. You saw him out there. He was yelling at everybody, getting everybody fired up. That’s all you can ask for from him.”

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All Shields could request of his teammates is to spare a few runs. They produced three for a pitcher who entered the game ranked 130th among 138 qualified starters with a 3.2 runs-per game support average.

Jose Abreu made it 1-0 in the first with an RBI single to score Adam Eaton, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Kyle Hendricks. Tyler Saladino also forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk, the third straight free pass issued by reliever Travis Wood.

Shields took advantage of the limited support and put himself in better position to pitch deep into the game with quick innings in the fourth and fifth. At 56 pitches after three, Shields needed only five to retire the side in the fourth and nine more in the fifth.

He had more than enough to get out of trouble in the sixth inning. Having retired 12 of 13 into the sixth, including the first two outs, Shields walked Addison Russell and Jason Heyward singled. But Shields -- who also got Dexter Fowler to pop out on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded in the second inning -- retired the dangerous Javy Baez on a foul ball down the left-field line to keep the White Sox ahead by two.

“They worked the count in the second inning,” Shields said. “I had a few walks there. We had La Stella out, but he had catcher’s interference. I probably threw a little extra that inning, and I had to get myself back in the game as far as pitch count, and I ended up doing that the very next inning.”

The ability to make big pitches and pitch deep into games stems from the comfort Ventura thinks Shields has rediscovered on the mound. The stretch of four starts, including his last with the Padres, in which he allowed 31 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings and was singled out by his former team’s owner for poor performance, couldn’t have done Shields any favors. But little by little, Shields has worked his way back.

Shortstop Tyler Saladino said the renewed confidence is easy to see when Shields is on the mound. Saladino said Shields will engage his infielders and even position them at times, knowing and trusting where they are.

“He starts to feel that confidence that he’s making his pitches, he’s getting his outs, he’s in charge,” Saladino said. “And when you’re behind him watching all that going on, and he’s giving you feed back when you come back in, you just know that he’s locked in. So you just go with it, the flow of him and everything.”